Like a proud parent…
Meeting up with an successful ex-student, gives me the feeling, of what it must be like to be a proud parent, to think that you may have had, even the smallest part in who they have become, be it through teaching, or even just a kind word when they were feeling down. Because that’s the thing, we are always having an impact on others, if we know it or not.
Tom, is now 28 with a wife and 1 year old son – Archie. He has built up his own flock, tenanted a farm and now is shepherd for the Overbury Estate.
Tom himself has said that he has been lucky, but I think we make our own luckthrough being a decent human being, kind and considerate, but also by working hard and saying yes to opportunities.
Tom comes from a family of farmers, his parents and grandparents were farmers and this was passed onto him, ‘farming is in your blood, it is quite hard to explain, it’s just there’. Toms grandfather installed the love of sheep, he would spend lambings and the summer holidays helping on the farm and his grandfather would give him a black ‘pet lamb’ every year – these started his first flock!
The farmer is a person with many attributes…
Tom left school at 16, he couldn’t wait to get out to work. On his gap year he went a helped a local shepherd, it was here the farmer told him he was ‘no good’ but instead of letting this knock his confidence, he has used these words to prove that farmer wrong – which he has done! Tom has spent time working on many farms, gaining valuable experience and knowledge, from lambing 5000 sheep in 4 weeks in Cumbria, to shearing in New Zealand, to going back to Coventry, where he worked with Adrian Hall, someone who had a big impact on him, someone who started on Council Farm and eventually bought his own. It was here that Tom bought and trained his first sheep dog, with the expert help of Adrian, a renowned dog trainer himself.
‘We need to change the public perception that farming is about brawn over brain – but those making the money are using their brains’.
To be a farmer means you have to be a so many things; be a balanced person, smart, adaptable, take on a job, be physically strong, mentally tough, be able to ride over the negative and be positive when things do go wrong. Willingness to learn from othersis vital, to be able to bring something new back to the farm, is invaluable.
Look for opportunties…
Tom & Holly knew they wanted to have their own farm and took a risk and applied for an 89 acre Staffordshire Council Farm; they were awarded a 10-year tenancy. The 150 flock he had built up on rented land were moved to Staffordshire and this grew to 400.
However Staffordshire Council decided to sell off 16 farms, Tom was offered compensation, which he took and during this time Holly saw the job at Overbury Estate, and within days of receiving his CV Tom was down in Worcestershire for an interview, they moved onto the estate in July.
Taking it back to basics…
This is great opportunity for Tom to make his mark on the estate, to work alongside farms manager, Jake (Nuffield Scholar) who has been following rejuvenation farming practices, with the backing of the estate board, using old techniques with modern kit! Mixing wheat varieties to combat resistances, under-sowing barley with red clovers, to reduce field passes and to create new 3-year lay rotations, fixing nitrogen and for grazing the sheep. Yields are good and wildlife numbers are increasing around the estate.
The sheep play a part in the arable management, to graze SSSI grasslands, and to follow the rotations around the farm. This is a new way of farming for Tom, but one he is excited about. He is tasked with improving scanning & lambing %, so he is bringing in Mule ewes and Texel X Charolais rams.
Grass is not suitable for rotational grazing, its growth is slow, so sheep are given the field, in the winter they are grazed on ‘green fields’ of vetch and rye or oats and lambs graze turnips. There is quite a lot of stress on the grass as lambs, born in April, are not sold until the following spring. Soil and water samples have been sent away, to find out which minerals are lacking and then a specialised mineral bucket will be devised for the ewes and lambs. Lambing outside has its own issues, mainly with supplementary feeding, the ewes run to the feed, Tom is thinking a feed block with reduce this happening. Tom aims to get back to basics – to get fit and healthy ewes that produce a fit and healthy lamb! Keeping good nutrition in-front of them will fight off any illness or disease and increase immunity. Routine vaccinations and the re-introduction of FootVax, along with Fecpak worm count, and automated weighing mean there is a lot of data to be used for improving the stock and also to present to the board.
Team work makes the dream work…
and Tom has a great team of dogs, who are settling in to the new system, of moving sheep along tracks aside open arable fields, to fields 2 miles from each other! They do have their work cut out, but with the loyalty I saw – they all take it in their stride.
Does luck find us or do we make it? Whereas one person would have taken the words ‘You are no good’ and let them floor them, Tom has used them to make sure he IS good, and that he IS making his own luck!
Do you see a challenge as a negative or do you see it as an opportunity? An opportunity to make changes, to improve, to push you out of the comfort zone, to grow?
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Photography, Listener of thoughts, asker of questions, Writer of Blogs
I am Sian Mercer, the writer of these blogs, which are based on thoughts and ideas, quetions I have asked, feelings I have had and wonders which have been answered.
I am a photographer, please check out my website www.myruraltribe.com to see my work and book your own photoshoot, for your rural business or family.